I'm not going to attempt to play critic with this monster. The hour is getting late and two other people have already thrown up their hands in horror and declared, "How can we review this — I mean TWENTY tracks!"
Yes, that's right, twenty tracks. That's the daunting first impression (from a critic's point of view) of the big E's newie. And indeed, on the first couple of hearings, this album sounded like a mess — all the songs (ranging in time from 1.47 to 3.36) blending into each other, finishing before one even realised they'd started, and generally playing havoc with the oid concentration span.
But on subsequent spins the character of the album starts to emerge from the mists. With the aid of arch collaborator Nick Lowe, Costello has aimed for a crisp, basically live sound and as is usual when these two get together, their aim is true. Gone is the multi-dubbing of Armed Forces — instead of cramming different styles into the one song, Costello keeps pretty much to the same style within his songs. The variety of styles are spread over the album via the abundance of songs.
The most immediate songs are the single, "I Can't Stand Up..." which beats and bobs along to an irrepressible rhythm, "New Amsterdam" which is slow, melodic and almost slinky, "Motel Matches" which finds Costello's keen observation in fine form and "Love For Tender" which almost has a carnival feel.
But as I said, just about all the songs grow on you after a few plays, and I'm sure that, like Armed Forces, there are hours of listening pleasure tucked away in these grooves. And if you're worried that packing so many songs onto a piece of 12" vinyl is going to affect the sound, there's a special reassuring note from "Basher" Lowe on the sleeve which promises "no loss of sound quality due to 'groove cramming'."
What more can I say but, get into it and get happy!